Brett Vincent and Ian O'Malley's friendship was just fer-meant to be.

From very different backgrounds, Brett and Ian are the faces behind the Lumberjack Brewery on Pukehina Beach Rd.

While the small craft brewery started operating early in 2017, it is only since January this year that it's been possible to pop in and buy beer in the tap room.

Ian is a three-day-a-week teacher at Ōtumoetai College, while Brett runs his own forestry business - but they have turned their passion for home brewing into a growing sideline.

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Brett has around five years experience, Ian eight or nine - but crucially he used to own the Beer Necessities brewers' shop in Tauranga.

''That's how we met,'' says Brett.

''Ian always wanted to go commercial for himself and we met at the home brew shop. I used to brew down there and we just got talking and it got eventually to 'I think it's time we tried something'.''

It was slow going at first and initially they tried to get a contact brewer to brew for them - but they heard about a brew kit becoming available and organised a lease on the Pukehina Beach Rd premises.

The first brew was ready in November 2017 and was sold in kegs.

''It was a 10-month process to get to that point with council regulations, food standards and audits to go through, excise and customs clearances. It's all been organic growth, but as we sell more, we improve things.''

A bigger brew kit arrived in December 2017.

''It used to take two of us 12-13 hours to do a brew of 300 litres and now we've got it down to six hours for one of us.''

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In September they decided to open a tap room, with the first off licence sales in mid January.

Beer is sold in 1.25l bottles and there are seven taps - six dispensing their own brews and the seventh, cider made at the Cider Factorie in Te Puna.

''The first couple of weeks blew me away and 90 per cent of it was locals from down the road, so the support had been awesome,'' says Brett.

Lumberjack Brewery specialises in IPAs. There is a core double IPA called Log Splitter, an IPA called Hatchet and a session IPA called Chain Break. They also brew a German Kölsch beer.

''It's the same principal as pilsner, but using a German ale yeast that has a sweeter malty flavour. We also brew a Pilsner for Annan in Te Puke and that sells extremely well.''
Ian is the specialist IPA brewer.

''I love hops,'' he says. ''All the beers I make are the big hoppy beers - anything with hops, I'll make it.

''I get pretty obsessive about stuff and I'll just read and read as much as I can to get to know everything.''

He says that means he has to have everything perfect.

''Which is really good in this industry as it's got to be the absolutely best product.''

Brett has more of an affinity with dark beers and makes a hoppy American porter, a fine extra stout and an imperial stout.

''I entered a lot of New Zealand home brew awards and won quite a few medals for beer.

''It's a taste preference. I do dark beers really well for some reason and I struggle with IPAs.

New equipment on its way from China will enable Lumberjack to up its capacity to 80,000 litres a year.

''That will be a reasonably sized brewery for this country,'' says Brett.

He says the brewery struggled at first.

''But the support we've had over the last little while and just getting to know more contacts means we've got our beer in quite a few places and I'm really pleased with what we are doing.

''Once our new capacity arrives, we will start looking at Auckland and Wellington and we'll have the volume to do that.

''But primarily it's just having our tap room and just serving this great bunch of people down the road.''

Ian says there is still a growing appreciation of craft beers.

''People are getting less and less into the binge drinking thing and are more likely to have a couple of really nice beers rather than going out and have 12 whatever beers.

''And people tend to be more knowledgeable. I think craft beer is helping people understand more about the different flavours you can put into beer and they are willing to try new things a well.''